Ravens pick Clemson CB Nate Wiggins in the first round, adding depth and speed to their secondary

FILE - Clemson cornerback Nate Wiggins (2) returns an interception for a touchdown against Florida Atlantic in an NCAA college football game Sept. 16, 2023, in Clemson, S.C. The Baltimore Ravens selected Wiggins in the NFL draft Thursday, April 25, 2024. (AP Photo/Jacob Kupferman, File)

OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) — One highlight says it all about Nate Wiggins — a chase-down tackle along the sideline against North Carolina last year in which the Clemson cornerback forced a fumble just before the goal line.

Wiggins is ready to bring that speed to the Baltimore Ravens next season after they took him with the 30th pick in the NFL draft Thursday night. Toward the end of a first round light on defensive selections, the Ravens had multiple talented defensive backs to choose from.

“In my opinion, the best cover corner in the draft. Highly athletic, fantastic feet," Baltimore general manager Eric DeCosta said. “Really, in our opinion, a guy that can grow into being a true shutdown-type corner. Ecstatic that he fell to us.”

The Ravens came into the draft with a few needs. They have to replace three starters on the offensive line, and they can probably justify adding another pass catching threat. Depth in the secondary was also a concern.

After teams made a record 14 straight offensive picks at the beginning of the draft, it looked increasingly like some of the top defensive talent would still be available for Baltimore. By the time the Ravens picked, eight offensive linemen and five wide receivers — but just two cornerbacks — had been taken.

“We had to come out of the first round with, most likely, a corner or an offensive lineman if we could. You always hold your breath," DeCosta said. “As the draft started to unfold and we started to see all those offensive linemen come off the board, we thought there might be a chance. ... It was always, if Nate was there we were going to pick. If Nate wasn't there, there was another guy we liked, but we also were going to look at possibly trading out."

Iowa cornerback Cooper DeJean was available, but the Ravens opted to go with the speedy Wiggins, who ran the 40-yard dash in 4.28 seconds at the NFL’s scouting combine in March. At 6-foot-1, 182 pounds, Wiggins faces no questions about his speed but a few about his ability as a run stopper.

“I feel like I'm the best man-on-man corner, I'm the best corner in the draft,” he said. “The tape speaks for itself.”

Baltimore fought through injuries in the secondary last season, when the Ravens posted the best record in the NFL during the regular season. This is the first time since 2017 that Baltimore took a cornerback in the first round. The Ravens picked Marlon Humphrey that year, and he's still with the team.

“I'd say we've got three legitimate starting corners,” coach John Harbaugh said. “(Wiggins has) got to come in and prove it and do it and all that, but we expect him to do it.”

The Ravens have eight more picks in the draft, including one in both the second and third rounds. DeCosta said he still sees a lot of players who can help on the offensive line.

He said he wasn't surprised by the run of offensive players early — which included six quarterbacks taken in the first 12 picks. That was presumably fine with Baltimore, which has two-time MVP Lamar Jackson at that position.

“It's just stacked on the offensive side this year at some positions," DeCosta said. "We knew the quarterbacks were going to be picked high, and we had a strong inclination that offensive linemen were going to go, too.”